Johnson & Johnson successfully beat back a $1.2 billion verdict awarded to the state of Arkansas in a Risperdal lawsuit that claimed the company and its Janssen Pharmaceuticals unit had improperly marketed the atypical antipsychotic medication. In a unanimous decision rendered last week, the Arkansas Supreme Court overturned the verdict on the grounds that the state’s Attorney General had relied on the wrong law when it filed the original lawsuit.
The state’s high court also found that the jury hearing the original trial in 2012 had been prejudiced by admission into evidence of a federal warning letter about the use of the drug. According to the court’s opinion, that letter constituted inadmissible hearsay evidence.
In a separate decision, the Arkansas Supreme Court also overturned $180 million in attorney fees awarded to the state in the Risperdal lawsuit.
The Arkansas lawsuit had accused Johnson & Johnson and Janssen of making misleading claims regarding the efficacy of Risperdal, and of downplaying its association with diabetes. After a jury found the drug makers guilty in 2012, the state court judge overseeing the case hit the companies with a $5,000 fine against for each Risperdal prescription purchased through the state Medicaid program over a 3 ½ year period. They were also ordered to pay a fine of $2,500 for each of the more than 4,500 letters Janssen sent to Arkansas doctors to promote the use of Risperdal.
However, the Arkansas Supreme Court determined that the statute the case was brought under only applied to healthcare facilities.
“Janssen is indisputably not a healthcare facility and applying for certification or re-certification as described in the statute,” Associate Justice Karen Baker wrote for the court. “Hence, the statutory provision is not applicable.”
“I am disappointed that the court viewed the law differently,” Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said in a statement issued after the decision was rendered. “Nevertheless, I will keep working to protect consumers against fraud and the kinds of irresponsible and greedy actions shown by Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals in their marketing of the drug Risperdal.”
Despite this victory, Johnson & Johnson and Janssen still face hundreds of lawsuits over alleged Risperdal side effects, including dozens of cases that claim the drug caused gynecomastia, or male breast development. Most of those claims are now pending in a mass tort proceeding underway in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia. Among other things, the Risperdal gynecomastia plaintiffs accuse the drug makers of concealing the link between the drug and elevated prolactin levels. Prolactin is a hormone that plays a role in female breast development and lactation.
In November, Johnson & Johnson and Janssen did agree to settle claims over the marketing of Risperdal and other drugs that had been brought by the U.S. Department of Justice. The $2.2 billion settlement was one of the largest ever to involve federal healthcare fraud charges. Among other things, the government had alleged that the companies improperly marketed Risperdal to geriatric and pediatric patients. They also accused Johnson & Johnson and Janssen of concealing side effects associated with the medication, including the risk of Risperdal male breast development.
If you or a loved one may have developed Risperdal gynecomastia, legal help is available to assist you in recovering compensation for medical bills and other damages associated with this painful and embarrassing condition. To learn more about filing a Risperdal lawsuit, please contact Bernstein Leibhard LLP today by calling .